Thursday, July 14, 2011

Global Warming Skeptic's Money from Big Oil - Why no Scandal?

Who is surprised to find out that global-warming skeptic Willie Soon was taking money, lots of it, from Big Oil? Not me.

And why isn't this another "climategate" scandal making headlines in every newspaper? Why is it that when a scientist is caught showing a little bias in his personal, private email to a colleague, the sky falls, but when a climate skeptic is caught violating one of the most fundamental rules of scientific enquiry, it's just a third-page article in a few newspapers and web sites?

I'll tell you why: nobody ever thought Willie Soon was a real scientist to begin with.

We're all surprised and dismayed when a real, honest scientist is caught in a minor infraction. Good science is supposed to be beyond reproach, and good scientists are supposed to be unbiased and honest, even when they don't like their own results. "Climategate" showed us that the scientists who are warning about the dangers of human-caused global warming are actually respected.

But when Willie Soon got caught taking over $1,000,000 from oil companies, it was mostly a yawn from the press. He had no reputation to begin with.

I guess that's good news. Unfortunately, the damage done by his work will continue for years and decades.


  1. I'm not taking sides on the whole GW argument. However, I want to point out that 1 million over the span of 10 years is a miniscule $100,000 and compare that to the (at least) 50 Billion spent for research in the other direction. I'm not sure there is really much to complain about here.

    If one is asking to follow the money, then it would bode us well to follow the money on both sides of the argument.

  2. If $100,000 is "miniscule', why don't you send me a check?

    And you miss the whole point about scientific research. It is never OK for scientists to take money from industry and then issue scientific papers that exonerate that industry. That's true even if their science is above reproach. The mere hint of bias automatically disqualifies a scientist.

  3. My point was that $100,000 is minuscule (sorry for the typo previously) compared to 5 Billion per year. I don't disagree that we should be wary of evidence presented by people that are partially (or fully) funded by companies in the industry. We should indeed. My point is that if you are going to hold them up to such high standards you should also hold a large portion of the pro-AGW scientific community up to the same standard. Researchers there take a good deal more money from groups that have an known pro-environmental stance.

    Put simply, just because it is an industry company isn't the problem. It's because it's an organization with a bias and that happens on both sides of the argument. Al Gore, for example, has deep investments into companies involved in CO2 reduction and therefore we should be just as careful about what he says. Scientific double standards are bad!

  4. Also, to clarify my money comments (I realized they might be confusing to some):
    1 Million (over 10 years) = 100,000 per year
    50 Billion (over 10 years) = 5 Billion per year

    The 50 Billion was a rough estimate from mixing a few sources I've seen, it could be wrong and I'll fully own up to that. Also, considering my remark above I obviously can't attribute all of that money to pro-AGW organizations, but the point stands that there appears to be a double standard on where it's ok to take money from.

    Hopefully that all clarifies what I was trying to say. I wish $100,000 were minuscule to me, if it were I'd happily write out a check to several people supporting atheism and reason :)


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